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Beyond the big attractions: Immerse yourself in your destination

The Irish will tell you that if you’ve only been to Dublin, you haven’t been to Ireland. The Emerald Isle might be an extreme example of this, with wide open green spaces all around outside of the main city. But there’s a lot of truth to the notion. Can you really claim to have seen Italy if you’ve only been to Rome? Japan if you’ve only been to Tokyo? Australia if you’ve only been to Sydney?

The idea of being more of a traveler than a tourist isn’t new. We’ve been promoting living as a local for years. It helps you get more of a feel for what life is really like in the destination you’re visiting rather than what the inside of the major tourist attractions is like. That’s not to say you should skip the major city in your destination. But combining it with the surrounding territory gives you a much fuller picture.

It’s also especially valuable in the COVID era, when privacy and personal space are luxuries. You can still see the attractions of the capital, but with an after-hours tour that enhances the experience and avoids the crowds. If you’ve seen the top attractions before, check out the hidden side of the city outside the main tourist zone, where real locals carry out age-old ways of life. Then spend a few days in the regional areas where locals go when they need a break from the city.

Those regional areas can open up a much more authentic and fulfilling experience. Think of how much better a trip to Florence is when it’s combined with time out in the Tuscan countryside. You can apply that same principle to practically any destination. Think Cape Town and the Cape Winelands, Buenos Aires and Mendoza, New York and the Hudson Valley. You get the idea.

There’s way too much beauty in the world, far too many things worth seeing, doing and learning, to limit yourself to part of a place. When in Rome, does as the Romans do: Get out of the city and see the rest of the country.

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